Buzz Words - September 2015
The next meeting of the club is Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community
Building, Route 149, West Barnstable. Experienced club members will give a presentation on
rendering and preparing beeswax and on winter preparations. Refreshments will be served;
donations of sweets and treats gratefully accepted.
FROM THE BOARD
Hearing stories of the amazing honey flow this summer reminds me of my first year beekeeping,
about eight years ago. I distinctly remembering being told during bee school that it was unusual
to get any honey with a new hive – they need time and resources to draw out the foundation,
build up the colony, and stock up for the winter. Like now, that summer had the perfect set of
conditions for a whopping honey harvest, even in a new hive. Enough rain to keep the nectar
flowing interspersed by lots of dry days to maximize nectar and pollen collection. And perhaps a
year class of bees that were more industrious than usual. I followed all the suggestions from bee
school, taking the time to check my hive regularly and monitor the girls’ activity… and lo and
behold, I ended up with two supers and 50 pounds of honey in my first year. I promptly gave it
all away over the holidays, overly secure in my skills as a beekeeper and sure that the bees would
be equally productive in the coming years. Silly me.
The harvest ebbs and flows each year, driven by many factors. Some are out of our control, like
the weather. Some are very much in our control, like timely feeding, varroa and small hive beetle
controls, frequent frame and space management (make those splits), and available forage.
I recall my first-year mentor saying that she wasn’t a bee “keeper,” she was a bee “haver” and
she practiced a very hands-off approach, letting the bees do their thing with minimal interference
and management. Over the years, my management style evolved from a very hands-on beekeeper
to a beehaver … mostly for a lack of time. It takes a lot less time to just let the bees be … we
were providing important pollination services to the neighborhood and I might get a couple
pounds of honey. We coexisted, sharing the backyard and the gardens.
After a year or two with no bees, I found myself diving back into my bee notes and books. Along
with this year’s new hive came more free time to work with the bees. It has been a refreshing
change to be a beekeeper again. Inspecting the hive, watching and listening to the girls so I can
make the right management decisions, paying attention to the nectar flow, and providing the
necessary frames and pest controls.
All the activities of a beekeeper are designed to help ensure the longevity of the hive and
optimize honey extraction. My hive is on track to produce at least 25 pounds of honey, not a bad
take for the first year of a brand-new hive. While this summer has been full of honey across the
Cape, I am fairly sure that if I had been a beehaver again, I wouldn’t be extracting honey this
year. After trying both management styles, I am committed to being a beekeeper again. Your
time and effort are rewarded with delicious honey. And what could be better than that?!
CHECK OUT CLUB MEMBER BLOGS
Julie Lipkin - http://blogs.capecodonline.com/cape-cod-beekeeping
BCBA discussion group - Barnstablefirstname.lastname@example.org
Tamar Haspel - http://www.starvingofftheland.com
Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/groups/BarnstableCountyBeeA
BEES IN THE NEWS
Lots of new info coming out about our favorite bugs. Check out these stories:
Tiny trackers could help solve global die-off of honey bees.
Bees feel flower buzz.
Plant chemical helps determine honey bees’ caste.
Solar farms could make fertile habitats for bees and butterflies.
Board of directors
EXTRACT! EXTRACT! READ ALL ABOUT IT!
At the recent meeting of the bee club board we were discussing honey extraction. Among the
many issues that came up (including just having a productive hive that produces honey!) was the
one of having an extractor available to pull the honey from the frames. My most recent Kelley
catalogue lists extractors from $199 for a two-frame plastic extractor to $5,200 for a 72-frame
stainless steel extractor with a ½ hp motor (I wish I could say I might have the use for this beast).
As you can see, even at the low end they are another pricey part of beekeeping and an item that
we unfortunately use only too rarely.
Some of us who own extractors have loaned them out to club members as the need has arisen.
However, the board was discussing whether there would be sufficient interest among club
members to do this more systematically, with the club purchasing a few extractors and lending
them out to members, the way a library functions. Individuals would still need to purchase their
own bottling kit (5-gallon bucket with a gate and a couple of filters for about $35) as well as comb knife and/or cap scratcher and whatever other exotic items you may think you need.
To determine whether there is sufficient interest/need among the membership for the purchase of a few extractors, I will be distributing a brief questionnaire at the September board meeting for you to complete and return to me.
Thank you for your interest.
A NEW QUEEN BEE
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has hired a new chief state apiary inspector and program coordinator. Kim Skyrm, who contacted BCBA officers last month to introduce herself, has agreed to speak to our club at our November meeting. In her emails she conveys great enthusiasm for her new job. “It is very important to me that you feel supported and heard as we start to move forward in making changes to this program! So please do not hesitate to reach out!” she wrote in accepting the club’s offer to speak. The state has a patchwork of part-time apiary inspectors, and the program has operated largely without supervision for a year since the death last September of Skyrm’s predecessor, Alfred Carl. Welcome, Kim!
Board of directors
At this time of the year, our main concern should be just how well the hive is storing nectar and honey for the winter. The books tell us that the top deep, where the cluster will spend most of the winter, should have 60 to 80 pounds of honey, or most deep frames full and capped.
So heft those hives from the bottom. It should be getting so heavy that it is hard to lift off the hive stand. If not, start feeding using a 2:1 sugar syrup. This should be given as often as the bees will take it. But remember those honey shallows should be removed. If there is a concern of robbing, you can simply spread a half sheet of the Cape Cod Times right on top of the top brood frames, sprinkle on a 4-pound bag of sugar, mist with water to clump, add a short shim and then inner and outer covers. The bees will take the sugar and with moisture in the hive create a syrup that can be stored in the cells. Or it will give the foragers more carbs so they can make more flights for that last bit of nectar.
SEPTEMBER HIVE OPENINGS
Treat yourself to a guided tour through hives managed by experienced beekeepers at one of four
hive openings scheduled throughout the Cape on Saturday, Sept. 12. The East Falmouth event
will begin at 10 a.m.; all others will begin at 9 a.m. This month’s inspections will concentrate on
how best to overwinter your hive and what you should be seeing in the hive this time of year.
- BARNSTABLE (run by Claire Desilets, email@example.com) at Cape Cod Organic Farm,
3675 Route 6A. Follow yellow bee signs in the back.
- EAST FALMOUTH (run by Marte Ayers, firstname.lastname@example.org) at Soares Nursery, 1021
Sandwich Road, half-mile south of intersection of Route 151 and Sandwich Road. Drive between
two greenhouses and park behind greenhouses, not in customer lot. (Note 10 a.m. start time.)
- BREWSTER (run by George Muhlebach, email@example.com) at the Cape Cod
Museum of Natural History, 869 Route 6A, across the street from the museum.
- WELLFLEET (run by John Portnoy, 508-349-9618) at 60 Narrowland Road. From the south:
Take Route 6 into Wellfleet, past all the turnoffs for Wellfleet Center/Harbor. Opposite Moby
Dick Restaurant, turn east (right) onto Gull Pond Road. Travel half-mile, take left onto Chris
Drive. Bear right at top of hill onto Mayflower Drive. About 200 meters at bottom of hill take
right onto dirt/gravel road - Narrowland Road (home-made sign). We (Narrowland Farm) are
second house on left about 200 meters just before you hit the power lines.
Board of directors
What must the bees be thinking of when all I’m thinking of is: the record summer of my beekeeping history, with blooms and forage on the Outer Cape seemingly never ending; the honey-smeared door handles and sweet smell of cured nectar in my vehicle after taking supers off those busy hives; each and every door handle in my house is sticky as well as the floor; watching the abundant clethra bloom come to an end while goldenrod wanes, yet some in other areas still flourish; trying to identify other blooming native shrubs along the highway; how am I ever going to get those frames extracted and bottled and those same frames back on the same colonies by tomorrow, lest the girls “turn their antennas up” when I place a frame from another colony on their hive; getting glassware through the dishwasher, filled, labeled and packed away for sale; remembering last summer as a struggle to eke out the tiniest bit of honey, and this year taking off in one day what amounted to last year’s entire harvest; taking my girls’ honey to my favorite chefs on the Outer Cape and watching their faces light up when they say, “this is the real
deal”; happy that so many newbees got their first honey harvest; hoping that bee health for all my colonies stays strong; planning which hives to treat for mites, which to start feeding, which need a new queen; glad our September BCBA meeting is coming up soon; # I love my bees…..# I love BCBA!!!
IN SEARCH OF THE LIGHT
OK, I’m throwin’ this out there, wacky as it sounds. Has anyone noticed odd nighttime behavior among their girls? Specifically, attraction to electric light? In the eight years I’ve been keeping bees, this is the first summer I’ve noted honeybees drawn to the light after dark, wheeling around the bulbs the way moths do. I mentioned this at our club’s board meeting in August, and several others said they’d observed the same phenomenon, though one said he’d first noticed it last summer. I use compact fluorescent bulbs these days, as most of us do; is there something about the CFLs vs. incandescents that attracts the bees? And honeybees are supposed to be diurnal, so why are they out after dark in the first place? Because it’s hot? But then why go to the light? Shouldn’t they be inside fanning the moisture out of their honey? Just curious.
WHEN THE CAT’S AWAY …
If they are not in, put your mouse guards in NOW. I found a mouse in one of my stored hives that unfortunately had one small hole in the bottom board screen. Fortunately no damage was done to the combs, as I had twoS shallow frames on one side of the brood box and she had nestled comfortably under them.
SUGAR IS BEST
I thought the discussion below was of interest. It comes from a blog I receive each morning. (Bee-L Digest):
“And: the idea of taking away honey and feeding with sugar syrup seems just wrong, but I’m told that in our climate, the ‘sugar syrup honey’ is actually preferable to real nectar honey for overwintering, because there are fewer indigestible residues, and thus less risk of dysentery when no cleansing flights are possible for several consecutive months. I wonder if there are data to back up that claim.
Yes, Bailey (I think it was in 1966 Journal of Apiculture Research on *The Effect of Acid-Hydrolyzed Sucrose on Honeybees*) a study many years ago found just that. Sucrose was the best overwintering feed with HFCS second and honey third, for the reason you noted. It is the ash content that determined the best feed, with low ash the best since that means fewer cleansing flights. There are several discussions in the archives, but they can get confusing since honey is the best food overall, but not for overwintering, which is the issue. George Imire also found this and set up a method of winter stores management that reduces the amount of fall honey, which is usually high ash.”
Recipe of the Month
½ c. sugar
7 Tbsp. honey, divided
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. milk
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle sugar in a 3-qt. saucepan; place over medium heat, and cook, gently shaking pan, 4 minutes or until sugar melts and turns a light golden brown. Slowly stir in 3 Tbsp. honey. (Mixture will clump a little; gently stir just until melted.) Remove from heat; immediately pour hot caramelized sugar into 6 (6-oz.) ramekins.
Process condensed milk, next 4 ingredients, and remaining 4 Tbsp. honey in a blender 10 to 15 seconds or until smooth; pour evenly over sugar in each ramekin. Place ramekins in a 13- by-9-inch pan. Add hot tap water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until slightly set. (Flan will jiggle when pan is shaken.) Remove ramekins from water bath; place on a wire rack. Cool 30 minutes. Cover and chill 3 hours. Run a knife around edges of flans to loosen; invert flans onto a serving plate.
* Recipe reprinted from Southern Living
A club member has two Warre hives for sale at $80 each. Call Julie Doyle at 508-344-0984 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.